2010 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (31 October 3 November 2010)
Paper No. 208-6
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM-3:15 PM

TEACHING AND LEARNING ABOUT THE ENERGY-WATER NEXUS

SEMKEN, Steven, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, PO Box 876004, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404, semken@asu.edu

Energy is required to extract, deliver, and process water supplies; and the most widely used means of energy production require significant quantities of water. The geological topics of energy and water resources may be taught in a decoupled manner, but energy and water systems are inextricably linked from the perspectives of engineering, economics, environmental quality, and sustainability. This interrelationship has been labeled the “energy-water nexus,” and it is receiving increasing attention from researchers, regulators, and planners. Active areas of research related to the energy-water nexus include water efficiency of energy production (especially renewable energy), desalination, and the water-related impacts of climate change on energy resources.

The energy-water nexus is also a pedagogically rich topic for Earth and environmental science educators because of its novelty to most students, its global and personal relevance; and because of the wealth of publicly available (DOE-EIA, USGS, NOAA, State agencies, etc.) quantitative data on water and energy systems that can be used in calculations, comparisons, and analyses small to large. Many coupled energy-water learning activities are analogous to those involving energy alone, such as the “water footprint” associated with personal or community energy use and the “water density” of different energy sources such as fossil-fuel combustion, nuclear fission, and concentrating solar. The energy-water nexus is also immediately relevant to discussions and studies of climate change and public policy.

The energy-water nexus seizes our attention in the American Southwest: a region long dependent on water and fossil energy imported from elsewhere in the USA, and now striving to lead in solar energy and water conservation. In a new Southwest place-based Earth science course developed and taught by the author, students engage with the energy-water nexus through water- and energy-density calculations and case studies including the direct link between coal-fired power and the Central Arizona Project, and the impacts of drought on regional hydropower production.

2010 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (31 October 3 November 2010)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 208
Energy Education in the Geoscience Classroom: Preparing Future Citizens, Scientists, and Policy Makers
Colorado Convention Center: Room 201
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 42, No. 5, p. 496

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